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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

17
Duke Energy badly fumbled the political/PR ball on the coal-ash spill. Duke should have quickly rolled out a clear plan to clean up the Dan River and to deal with long-term management of ash ponds.
 
All we heard was the CEO saying ratepayers would pay. Politicians filled the void with preaching, posturing and their own policy proposals. Now Duke is floating down the political river taking on water.
 
But let’s be honest here. For the last 40 years, state government – and regulators – tacitly or expressly supported what Duke did. Why? Because it was cheap to use coal to generate electricity. And the ponds were the cheapest way to store the ash. That meant North Carolina could offer cheap, plentiful electricity to industry. Which helped build a booming manufacturing economy – and employ tens of thousands of people.
 
Now the question is what to do with the stuff. The quantity is so enormous and the ash so repugnant that there’s simply nowhere to send it. Even if you could move it, it would be the state’s largest project ever: billions of dollars and a decade or more.
 
There is a parallel to the nation’s storage of nuclear fuel waste. Tens of billions of dollars (ratepayer dollars) were spent on Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada. Politicians (Sen. Harry Reid) vetoed Yucca, so the nuclear waste continues to be stored at individual nuclear sites around the country. The billions of dollars were wasted. And nothing was done.
 
Given Duke’s cluelessness and the state of politics today, how do you think this one is going to work out for you?

 

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14
Without Duke Energy, Pat McCrory wouldn’t be Governor. Now, with Duke’s coal-ash spill, he may very well be a one-term Governor.
 
Get some popcorn and get a comfortable chair, because this movie is going to run for a long time. At least through the 2016 election. And it will dominate the rest of McCrory’s time as Governor.
 
He has to be thinking: “The damned pipe has to burst NOW, when I’m Governor?”
 
In all his years at Duke, McCrory probably never visited an ash pond. But he worked there for 29 years. He was an executive there while millions of tons of ash accumulated in Duke’s ponds. His administration made environmental regulatory reform a high-profile issue. Then – BOOM! – an environmental catastrophe hits on his watch.
 
Now he faces an endless reel of front-page stories, revelations about regulatory relationships and demagogic debates over who should pay. (Spoiler alert: In the end, the ratepayers will pay. They always do. No matter what posturing politicians promise.)
 
And then there’s the dead-serious matter of grand jury subpoenas and a federal investigation.
 
McCrory won’t get any cover from Republican legislators. They’ll be happy to throw him in the ash pit to save themselves.
 
That’s why the spill won’t be a deciding issue this year. Every candidate for the legislature will blast Duke and DENR. They’ll promise to get this mess cleaned up and it won’t cost ratepayers a cent. That will put off the day of reckoning to 2016.
 
When McCrory will find out how truly lonely it is at the top.

 

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12
A TAPster reports seeing a State Capitol Police car equipped with a radar gun – miles away from any state government building.
 
Inquiring minds want to know:  Why does the State Capitol Police need a radar gun in one of their cruisers? What possible explanation can there be? Are school children running too fast across the Capitol grounds? Are lawyers heading to the Supreme Court building at a reckless pace? Are the pigeons flying at unsafe speeds? Why do they even need a cruiser, for goodness sakes?

And how many classroom supplies could be purchased for the cost of a wasteful radar gun?

 

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11
Governor McCrory may have coal ash on his hands, but I bet most voters have education on their minds. So, does focusing on the Dan River disaster distract Democrats from a stronger issue?
 
The spill is a tempting target. There’s the McCrory-Duke tie. You can tell the Governor is sensitive about it. When he says we should “keep the politics out,” that’s code for: This will hurt me politically.
 
Then the N&O reported: “McCrory seemed miffed that he is receiving a good bit of the scrutiny because of his three-decade tenure at Duke Energy.” He said, “It’s as though I actually went there with a shovel. I’m waiting for that accusation.”
 
Then there’s DENR’s emphasis on being “customer friendly” to companies like Duke.
 
Then Duke’s CEO picks the worst possible time to say that customers will pay for the cleanup.
 
But the Elon Poll noted this week that, even after the flood (so to speak) of coverage, 64 percent of North Carolina’s registered voters “said they had heard little or nothing about the spill.”
 
Remember: Real people aren’t nearly as consumed with these things as we junkies are.
 
But education is different. Voters are paying a lot of attention to that. They know what the Republicans have done, and they don’t like it.
 
That’s why McCrory was backing away from his record on education even faster than from Duke. He admitted that the misnamed “teacher tenure law” needs to be changed. And Rep. Chuck McGrady admits that legislators are getting an earful about education at home.
 
The coal ash story will play out for a long time. Give that fish some line. And keep reeling in education.
 
 

 

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10
Will Randy Voller leave the Democratic Party homeless? What a tribute to his leadership.
 
WRAL reports: “An Executive Council member…said embattled party Chairman Randy Voller told members the party is ‘broke,’ with only $60,000 in the bank. According to the attendee, Voller told party members he may have to let some staffers go, and is even evaluating whether the party should continue to operate out of the Goodwin House, a historic house from 1903 on Hillsborough Street in downtown Raleigh.”
 
Earth to Voller: People don’t give you money if they don’t trust you. Some donors, like Auditor Beth Wood, have even asked for their money back. Senator Kay Hagan’s campaign is looking for an alternative channel for its money.
 
That’s a pretty clear lack of confidence.
 
Voller’s “power base” reportedly is grassroots activists who abhor the establishment, elected officials, professional consultants and any hint of money in politics. They sound like the Democratic equivalent of climate-change deniers. They pose as great a danger to Democrats as the Tea Party does to Republicans.
 
North Carolina is going down the tubes under Republicans. Democrats need to get their act together and win some elections this year and in 2016.
 
Get real, and get to work.
 

 

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07
This tribute was penned by Gene Upchurch, a veteran executive and lobbyist for CP&L and Progress Energy:
 
“For those of us who have toiled in the Raleigh political gig the last 30 years, Martin Nesbitt has always been there. Love him or hate him, agree or disagree, he was there, usually bigger than life. Impossible to miss. Impossible to misinterpret.
 
“He was a large man with a large, imposing personality. He was equal parts populism, pragmatism and grit. When he made up his mind, it was made up and could not be changed. You always knew where you stood with him whether you liked it or not. But at least you knew.
 
“People thought he loved politics, but his true love was the mountains and the simple, everyday people who lived there.
 
“I worked with him for several years on the Clean Smokestacks Act in the early 2000s. After the bill passed, it was many years before I understood his motivation wasn’t to beat up the electric utilities or kowtow to the environmentalists. Instead, he wanted to help mountain folks who thought their trees were dying from pollution drifting in from other states. He believed North Carolina couldn’t badger other states to clean their emissions if we weren’t doing something to clean ours. So, he patiently brokered a solution that took about four years but got the job done. In the end, his people were better off.
 
“He spent thousands of exhausting hours traveling to and from Raleigh, a testament to his commitment to take the mountain voices to the legislature. I remember so vividly the emotion in his voice and in the voice of his carpool buddy Senator Bob Swain when they talked about driving home from Raleigh, rounding a curve on I-40 and catching the first glimpse of their beloved mountains in the smoky distance.
 
“Nesbitt made his last trip to those mountains Wednesday, and it’s really difficult to imagine Raleigh without him.”

 

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06
He helped answer two questions that I get a lot: Why are you helping Clay Aiken? And, of course: What’s he like?
 
When Holding said he was considering running against Renee Ellmers in the Republican primary (he didn’t, in the end), he said she “has gone Washington.” He added, “Do not underestimate Clay Aiken. He’s speaking from the heart. If he gets off the ground there is a concern on my side that he could get loose and win that thing.”
 
Bingo, Robert.
 
Aiken is known for his singing voice, but he has a unique political voice. As he showed in his announcement video, he tells his life story in a compelling way, he captures the public’s disgust with Washington dysfunction and he offers a clear and refreshing contrast. And he’s bringing attention to a race that wasn’t on the radar.
 
What’s he like? The first thing people say is: “You’re taller than I expected” (an inch or two over six feet.) He’s genuine, down-to-earth and likeable. Self-assured in the way successful people are, but not cocky. He’s not intimidated by cameras, media scrutiny or the Republican tracker who tapes his every move and utterance. Been there, done that.
 
He’s tougher, smarter and more informed than people expect. He’s a sponge for information and he sets high standards for himself and people around him.
 
He has a genuine distaste for what politics in America has become, just like many voters. And he has an internal compass that steers him clear of politics-as-usual. He’s a welcome contrast to a cynical, power-hungry, money-obsessed political world.
 
And his campaign is attracting smart, idealistic and committed young people. That’s good for the Democratic Party.
 

 

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05
When every politician in Washington sounds like a robot reciting a predictable party line, Rand Paul sounds like a man who actually thinks. Sometimes he sounds sounds nutty and sometimes he makes sense, but he’s worth watching – and listening to.
 
Paul first caught my attention when he filibustered against drones, denounced the NSA and defended super-leaker Edward Snowden. Recently, unlike every other weasel-livered Republican, he denounced Ted Nugent, the off-his-rocker rocker, for calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel.” Then Paul turned around and called President Clinton a “sexual predator.”
 
Just this week, he didn’t echo his fellow Republicans’ empty tough talk about what Obama should do to Putin and Russia. Essentially, Rand said, what Russia does in Ukraine isn’t our business, and what the hell would we do anyway? Send in troops? Plus, how do we criticize Russia for unilateral military action after we invaded Iraq?
 
Now Paul has joined with Attorney General Eric Holder to push back against extreme drug-sentencing laws that fill prisons with offenders who might be better dealt with somewhere else. He has even said convicted non-violent drug felons should be able to regain the right to vote.
 
With all this, it’s hard to see how Paul becomes the Republican presidential nominee in 2016. But it’s good to see one politician in Washington who’s not afraid to break ranks with party. And it’s refreshing to hear a politician, especially a Republican, who is thinking.

 

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04
Three eye-catching and eye-popping numbers jumped out of the paper lately – numbers that truly tell a story.
 
990. That’s how many dollars an hour the latest expert is being paid to give us the latest “final” report on the UNC academic/athletics scandal. What would it cost UNC to just ask The News & Observer what its investigative reporters found? They seem to have turned up most of the facts, and they probably make less than $990 an hour.
 
$310,000. That’s what DHHS paid a consultant for less than 11 months of work. His assignment, of course, was to show the state how to save money. 
 
132: That’s how many of the 170 seats in the General Assembly are regarded as certain to elect either a Democrat or Republican in November. That’s more than 77 percent. In other words, only one-fourth of the state’s voters get a choice.

 

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03
Business and industry got exactly what they wanted when Governor McCrory and DENR Secretary John Skvarla took office. Then they got exactly what they didn’t need when Duke’s coal ash spilled into the Dan River.
 
Suddenly, “customer friendly” sounds like “polluter friendly.” The U.S. Attorney raises the threat of criminal indictments. And The New York Times unearths this episode: A DENR official telling employees in charge of stopping water pollution:  “The General Assembly doesn’t like you. They cut your budget, but you didn’t get the message. And they cut your budget again, and you still didn’t get the message….If you don’t like change, you’ll be gone.”
 
Now, you wonder who is going to be gone. And where this will all end.
 
Now, environmental issues are odd political animals. They have a passionate, but relatively small, constituency. On most polls, they rank down the list of priorities. But that changes when people hear that poison is being dumped in rivers where they fish, boat and get their drinking water. The environment goes from zero to 90 overnight.
 
Governor McCrory is scrambling to get in front of this. He knows he can’t afford another department in scandal, on top of DHHS. But the water is, as they say, under the bridge. Now we see who drowns. And DENR may learn who the ultimate customers are: the citizens and taxpayers.

 

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